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The Importance of Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Jul 5, 2023
A Nurse Straps a Blood Pressure Cuff to a Patient’s Arm as They Lie in a Hospital Bed.

The Importance of Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing

Shorter hospital stays, fewer complications in response to treatment, and improved patient satisfaction. Evidence-based practice isn’t just a theoretical concept; it has real-world benefits. When nurses invest their time and effort in using research-based evidence to guide their decisions and practices, they tend to see positive results. In fact, a recent scoping review published in Worldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing found that, in cases where clinicians used evidence-based practices, metrics ranging from recovery time to cost efficiency improved about 94% of the time.

Developing an in-depth understanding of evidence-based practice in nursing can serve as an important first step for clinicians and aspiring clinicians seeking to incorporate it into their practice. Nursing programs can provide the comprehensive education practitioners need to unlock the full potential of evidence-based practice.

Defining Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing

A cornerstone of nursing excellence, evidence-based practice integrates the latest research evidence, clinical expertise, and patient preferences to inform decision-making and guide nursing interventions. By basing their practice on solid evidence, nurses can optimize patient care.

Consider the example of a patient admitted to a hospital with chest pain. A nurse practicing evidence-based care would review the latest science regarding chest pain assessment and management, evaluate the patient’s unique circumstances, and tailor a care plan accordingly. This approach ensures that the nurse’s interventions are rooted in proven methodologies, increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome for the patient.

Evidence-based practice acknowledges that health care is an ever-evolving field that demands practitioners stay up to date on the latest research findings to ensure their practices align with the most effective and efficient approaches.

The Impact of Evidence-Based Practice on Patient Outcomes

Incorporating the latest research findings into their practice allows nurses to confidently deliver care that’s been proven safe and effective. Evidence-based practice reduces reliance on outdated information and personal biases. It helps ensure that patients receive care based on the current state of knowledge. This can enhance patient outcomes in many ways.

For example, research from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has shown that evidence-based practice in nursing can reduce patient safety risks related to diagnostic errors, sepsis, and adverse drug events. When faced with complications, infections, or failures in patient care, nurses can look to evidence-based practices to better understand what may have led to these negative outcomes. This enables nurses to choose strategies that research has shown have worked in similar situations, which, in turn, will increase the likelihood of positive results.

Consider a health care facility with a high rate of surgical site infections. To address the problem, nurses take an evidence-based approach. They evaluate several studies and discover that inadequate sterilization procedures and poor wound care practices are at the root of their problem. In response, the nurses implement evidence-based strategies and interventions shown to improve both issues, and the infection rate drops.

Additionally, evidence-based practice emphasizes the importance of considering individual patient preferences and values. This makes for more personalized patient care. By involving patients in the decision-making process and tailoring care plans to their unique circumstances, nurses can enhance patients’ satisfaction and overall well-being.

Incorporating Evidence-Based Practice Into Nursing

Developing proficiency in evidence-based practice requires ongoing learning and skill development. Nurses can incorporate evidence-based practice into their daily routines in the following ways:

Building Research Literacy

To effectively apply evidence-based practice, nurses must develop research literacy skills. This involves learning how to critically appraise research studies, evaluate the strength of evidence, and identify reliable sources of information.

Accessing and Evaluating Evidence

Nurses can access evidence through various channels, including peer-reviewed journals, online databases, and professional organizations’ guidelines. By critically evaluating the quality and relevance of the evidence, nurses can determine which studies may apply to their patient populations and clinical settings.

Applying Evidence in Practice

Incorporating evidence-based practice into everyday nursing care involves bridging the gap between research and practice. Nurses can achieve this by integrating evidence into their clinical decision-making processes, collaborating with interdisciplinary teams, and continuously evaluating the effectiveness of their interventions.

Evidence-Based Practice Across Different Education Levels

Nursing programs at different educational levels approach evidence-based practice in different ways:

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Programs

BSN programs lay the groundwork for a nurse’s understanding of evidence-based practice. In these programs, students learn the fundamentals of evidence-based care and the essential skills they need to incorporate them into their practice.

Individuals can earn a BSN degree in one of two ways. Registered nurses (RNs) without a BSN can enroll in an RN to BSN program designed to build upon their previous nursing education and experience and to further develop their knowledge and skills. Individuals with no background in nursing can enroll in a traditional BSN program.

During their BSN education, students begin to cultivate critical appraisal skills, which enables them to evaluate research studies and determine their validity and relevance. They also learn about research methodologies, such as quantitative and qualitative methods, which equips them to navigate and interpret scientific literature effectively.

BSN students also gain practical experience through clinical rotations, working alongside experienced nurses who serve as mentors. In these clinical settings, students have opportunities to apply evidence-based practice principles under the guidance of their preceptors. They learn how to integrate research findings, clinical expertise, and patient preferences to make informed decisions about patient care. Through hands-on experience, BSN students develop a solid foundation in evidence-based practice that will shape their nursing careers.

Doctoral Nursing Programs

Advanced degree programs, such as a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), offer a more in-depth exploration of evidence-based practice and research. These programs involve advanced scholarship and prepare nurses to become leaders in evidence-based care.

DNP programs, which focus on clinical practice, often offer nurses the opportunity to choose a specialization, such as an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, or nurse anesthesia. While DNP programs vary in structure and curriculum, they all emphasize the integration of evidence-based practice into advanced nursing roles.

In DNP programs, students engage in rigorous research. They delve deeper into research methodologies, learning advanced statistical analysis and qualitative research methods. DNP students critically appraise and synthesize existing evidence to identify gaps in knowledge, which then serve as the basis for their own research projects.

Whether studying the efficacy of a new intervention for pediatric patients with asthma or evaluating the long-term outcomes of older individuals receiving palliative care, DNP students navigate the research process and generate new evidence to inform their practice and contribute to the broader nursing community’s knowledge.

DNP programs typically culminate in a practice-focused capstone project. These projects allow students to apply evidence-based practice principles to a specific clinical question or problem. This both produces practical solutions and further develops a nurse’s expertise in evidence-based practice.

Elevate Patient Care Through Evidence-Based Practice

Evidence-based practice in nursing can elevate patient care and outcomes. By integrating the best available evidence, clinical expertise, and patient values, nurses can revolutionize health care delivery. Aspiring nurses and experienced clinicians alike can embrace evidence-based practice through continuous learning, critical appraisal of research, and collaboration with interdisciplinary teams.

Explore how the nursing programs at The University of Tulsa, such as the online RN-BSN program, can prepare nurses with the knowledge and skills they need to excel.

Recommended Readings

How the Theory of Human Caring Applies to Nursing

What Can You Do With a BSN?

What Is Roy’s Adaptation Model of Nursing?


Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “Making Healthcare Safer III: A Critical Analysis of Existing and Emerging Patient Safety Practices”

American Journal of Nursing, “Evidence-Based Practice: Step by Step: The Seven Steps of Evidence-Based Practice”

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Educational Interventions for Teaching Evidence-Based Practice to Undergraduate Nursing Students: A Scoping Review”

JAMA Health Forum, “Evidence-Based Health Policy in the Biden-Harris Administration”

Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Evidence-Based Practice

The Journal of Nursing Administration, “Developing Competency to Sustain Evidence-Based Practice”

Wolters Kluwer, Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing and Healthcare: A Guide to Best Practice

Worldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing, “Evidence-Based Practice Improves Patient Outcomes and Healthcare System Return on Investment: Findings from a Scoping Review”

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